The Maine Legislature is going full throttle, as committees are charged with finishing their work this week and a few new bills are still just being printed. We have been on defense on a few issues and have been able to support bills that move important issues forward as well. GrowSmart Maine continues to monitor numerous bills related to our mission, and weighing in where we believe our perspective is unique and our voice might make that key difference in legislative consideration of proposed legislation.
Much focus is on the budget negotiations. GrowSmart Maine has concerns related to the Administration’s elimination of General Revenue Sharing to municipalities and reimbursements for property taxes for low-income residents for the next two years. These cuts will likely result in significant increases in property taxes across the state, as municipalities struggle to respond to the immediate cuts without complimentary assistance in finding efficiencies in regional service delivery.
GrowSmart Maine spoke in support of LD 1496, An Act To Modernize and Simplify the Tax Code. Although there are plenty of individual components that might cause concern, the overall goals are valid.
Bonds for statewide investments likely will not be brought forward to the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs until the budget is signed into law.
Below are a few highlights of specific bills:
Smart growth/land use
1528 Resolve, To Provide for Livable, Affordable Neighborhoods will have its public hearing May 16th. The bill calls for concerted efforts in developing smart growth policies for transportation, rural landscapes and livable neighborhoods. GSM is speaking in favor and, at the sponsor’s request, has in very short order put together a broad coalition of interests willing to work on these issues.
220: An Act To Ban the United Nations Agenda 21 in Maine. This bill, which quite frankly vilifies all community planning efforts, was reported out of the Judiciary committee with a strong vote Ought Not To Pass (ONTP). This bill was voted down in the House by a vote of 101 to 40.
There were two bills related to Regulatory Takings, which would have greatly weakened Maine’s ability to regulate environmental impact and historic preservation. The most egregious, LD 1039 An Act To Promote Regulatory Fairness was voted out of committee ONTP. The second, LD 1450 An Act To Connect the Citizens of the State to the State's Natural Resources by Establishing Standards for Relief from Regulatory Burdens: is coming out of committee with a divided strongly ONTP vote.
MUBEC There were several bills that would have restored MUBEC to our preferred 2010 level of uniformity across much of the state and others that would reduce its uniformity. The most egregious, LD 1420, An Act To Return to Building Code Requirements in Effect Prior to the Adoption of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code was voted Ought Not To Pass unanimously in committee as was LD 1041, An Act To Modify the Mandatory Enforcement of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code for a Municipality without a Building Code which may have also had strong impact in repealing the uniformity.
977: An Act To Restore Uniformity to the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. GrowSmart Maine supported this Legislation, which is still in committee.
483: An Act To Promote Small Businesses by Enhancing the Use of On-premises Signs, GSM opposed this bill, which failed passage.
1172: to Fund Maine Downtown Center at $100K annually. One of our priority bills to replace ongoing funding that had been secured through the Community Development Block Grant federal program. Very strong vote out of committee and now engrossed in Senate with 34/1 vote and under the hammer (no vote, so in effect unanimous) in the House on first reading. This has passed for engrossment in the House on May 16th, so will head to the Appropriations Table and compete with other bills for funding or be incorporated into the biennial budget.
413: An Act To Expand Eligible Project Costs in Development Districts. This bill allows use of municipal Tax-Increment Financing in development districts for regional economic development projects. Engrossed in House